Ever since the first inklings of Undying Dirge started to show up in patches, first a bit of textures, then some particle effects, I’ve been pretty excited about having him finally in the game. He’s got the kind of tenacity that I like in my heroes; defeating death once, coming back from it a few more times over the course of a game shouldn’t be too hard, right? Well he’s on the test server now, and he should be in the game proper either today or tomorrow, so I’ve given him a bit of a whirl.
He instantly makes sense, which is always the best of things when you first get your hands on a hero. Your Q is Decay, a placed AoE that does a bit of damage and stealing four strength per hero caught in the area. As well as being a pretty good way to chip away at lots of health bars all at once, that stolen strength makes laning against him a bit of a bastard, because suddenly you can’t last hit exactly where you think you can, as your damage output just got a chunk taken out of it.
On his W is Soul Rip, which can be used to heal friendly units or damage unfriendly units, with the damage based on how many units are around it. Again, it’s a skill that benefits from units being bunched up, which means being on lane, which is where Undying should be anyway. Like I said, he makes sense. Which is where the Tombstone comes in.
It’s a giant monolith that comes rocketting out of the ground for a short duration (15 seconds at level 1, 30 at level 4), and constantly spawns zombies on any enemy unit for as long as it’s up. It can be destroyed, but it can also be the target of Soul Rip, which means that if you want to push a lane down, or if you want to tangle up all sorts of enemy heroes in a team fight, laying down a Tombstone is pretty much a great idea. The zombies themselves have Deathlust, which makes their attacks slow, as well as giving them increased movement and attack speed if their target falls under a certain amount of health. It’s what makes Dirge such a good pusher, and turns teamfights into a mire that you don’t want to hang around in.
And then there’s the fact that he can turn into a massive Flesh Golem for thirty seconds, only having to wait another forty five before using it again. It means he gets health for every unit that dies near him (more for heroes, less for creeps), as well as slowing anyone who gets near while also increasing the amount of damage they take. Couple that with his Tombstone and Dirge looks like he’ll be a really good blanket debuffer when it comes to teamfights in the late game.
So it seems like he’s most of the way to being a really effective pusher, and half the way to being a half decent harrasser. Which means that when it comes to items, it makes sense that he should emphasise survivability over damage output. So items like Vanguard to keep his health up, and Arcane Boots to make sure he’s got enough mana to push, along with Ring of Basilius to keep his creeps and zombies up, seem like no-brainers.
Once you get to the luxury item stage, heading for utility and survivability is the way the recommended items lean, and throwing items like Heart of Terrasque and Assault Cuirass, or going for support items like Pipe or Scythe worked pretty well in the game I played. But then that was against bots, and bots don’t seem to know what they’re doing all of the time.
Either way, he’s a lot of fun to play, and getting kills when you’re not close to the victim is always lots of fun. Having that kill be because zombies mobbed whoever died is just the icing on the slightly decayed and rotting and probably quite disgusting cake. At least there’s some gummy vitamins on top, for flavour.